CHICAGO (CBS) — A new report found widespread failures at Chicago Public Schools in the wake of a sex abuse scandal. Outside investigators found deficiencies in CPS training, reporting, and how school officials collected data.
CBS 2’s Lauren Victory reports CPS starts school in little over two weeks. Inside every building, students will see new posters about preventing and reporting abuse. The posters are in addition to several policy and technical changes since the report has been released.
Lenett Reccord is the mother of a CPS student. As she flipped through 96 pages of Chicago Public School’s future fixes and current failures, Reccord recalled four years of fighting after she says a substitute teacher groomed and assaulted her daughter, Tamara.
“I’m not sure who put that report together, but they hit the nail on the head,” said Reccord. “It hurts, but it’s time that it comes out,”
CPS looked into more than 1,600 reports of potential sexual harassment cases in the 2016-2017 school year alone, but its investigators are, according to the report, “not consistently trained,” so tracking of the incidents have been “deeply flawed.” That is the conclusion of outside counsel, Maggie Hickey, after sifting through “thousands of documents” and “interviewing more than 80 CPS employees.”
“It was extremely re-traumatizing to me, and probably worse than the even itself, how poorly I was treated by CPS investigators and how clear it was that there was a lack of a system or an outline or anything,” stated Morgan Aranda, a former CPS student and sex abuse victim. As for the CPS reports, she said, “It is upsetting and disappointing, but not surprising.”
Aranda repeated those claims before state legislators earlier this summer. Hickey’s report confirms them, adding a lack of a clear investigations process made it “unlikely that evidence was stored or preserved consistently” and caused many victims to be “asked the wrong questions” by “untrained employees.”
The three-month, preliminary review of CPS practices also discovered “background check inconsistencies.” Sometimes volunteers or vendors were not screened at all.
CPS committed to re-checking everyone before the 2018-2019 school year, but the report flags the need to create a reliable follow-up system.
Training about sexual misconduct policies and how to report potential incidents are marked as huge areas for improvement. The head of CPS says the district plans to teach not only employees, but students and parents about changes.
“We really have an opportunity to raise a new generation who understands that some of the things that may have been seen as appropriate in the past are no longer okay,” stated CPS CEO Janice Jackson. “Respecting boundaries, making sure you have appropriate relationships is critically important. There’s a lot there to unpack, but what I’m doing is looking at it as a roadmap, so we can do more to protect our children.”
“I know now that this is not me blowing smoke out my own ears, this is real,” said Reccord.
The report includes a footnote that leadership at the Chicago Teachers Union never responded to requests for input. CBS 2 asked CTU’s Vice President why, and were told he does not recall anyone from Maggie Hickey’s office reaching out.
CTU sent a separate statement blaming the district’s problems on the mayor.